Montreal seen from the top of the Olympic Stadium
A few weeks ago, on March 29, Earth Hour challenged people to shut off their lights in thousands of cities all over the world, including Montreal. On April 22 it is time to celebrate a larger event: Earth Day. It all began back in 1969 when the U.S Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed a nationwide protest day to make politicians aware about the critical state of the environment. Earth Day was born and it grew rapidly. Fast forward to 1990. An article in Time Magazine asks if Earth Day really matters and refers to it as a “marketing monster”. Read it without knowing in what year it was written, and at a first glance you might think nothing has changed in nearly two decades:
“Thousands of Earth Day happenings, from ladybug releases and the building of garbage monuments to corporate ‘We love the environment too’ advertising campaigns, have become an undifferentiated blur as everyone tries to wave the green flag at once. Nobody is against Earth Day, but the very breadth of this looming mega-event raises the question: What’s the point?”
Well, Earth Day has grown tremendously since its inception, and it is now celebrated in nearly 200 countries by an estimated 500 million people. It has outlasted many green fads and survived a lot of critique. Perhaps because the focus of Earth Day is to encourage local environmental action. Earthday.ca says that almost every schoolchild in Canada participates in environmental activities on Earth Day. Let’s go back to the Time Magazine article and 1990 again:
“Many people will return to business as usual on Monday, hoping not to hear the E word (environment) again for weeks.”
Although the quest for sustainable development often seems to be two steps forward and one step back, this historical perspective suggests that something has actually changed. Now the “E word” is mentioned on a daily basis: in your newsfeed, in the paper, on TV, in the workplace and in the classroom. Hate it or love it: There is no way to escape it.
The gloomy 1990 Time Magazine article ended by questioning whether the environment would be sustained long enough to let us celebrate Earth Day again in 2010. We seem to be on the right way, at the very least.